PAUL COULD BE A JERK when he wasn’t in jail.
A free man, he could sometimes get a little too blunt.
“I wish the people who are bothering you would castrate themselves!” Galatians 5:12
He wrote that letter of Galatians to Christians scattered in churches throughout the region of Galatia, in what is now Turkey. He was talking about Jewish Christians who insisted that anyone who wanted to become a Christian had to first become a Jew. And for men, that meant they had to get circumcised.
Paul was essentially telling those Jewish Christians to go grab a sharp knife and whittle on themselves until they’re singing soprano.
When he’s in prison, however, he can be the most compassionate, caring, pastoral human being a parishioner could ever want.
My Bible study class this past Sunday was finishing up a four-week study in the four chapters of Philippians, which is a thank you letter Paul wrote to Christians in Philippi, a city in what is now Greece. They had sent him a care package while he was in prison.
In preparation to lead the class discussion, I started reading through the chapter. Before long, my head was spinning. There were so many golden one-liners, worthy for hanging on a refrigerator, that I wasn’t sure how to approach this study.
So what I did was to tell the class I was going to start reading the chapter. I told them to call out the word “Stop” whenever I came to a line that is something notable, and worthy of hanging on the refrigerator, or worth hanging on for dear life.
There are only 23 verses in this chapter. And out of this short essay come these golden lines:
- “Stay true to the Lord.” 4:1
- “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again.” Rejoice! 4:4
- “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” 4:6
- “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 4:7
- “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 4:8
- “God, who gives peace, will be with you.” 4:9
- “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” 4:11
- “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” 4:13
- “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” 4:19
- “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” 4:23
The guy could write in prison, we’ve got to give that to him.
For more about the apostle Paul
- Who’s Who & Where’s Where in the Bible, pages 363-368
- Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pages 367-370
- Complete Guide to the Bible, pages 364-458
- A Quick, Guided Tour Through the Bible, pages 183-207
- What to do about Paul, the Jew basher
- St. Paul, patron of itchy feet
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